I had the pleasure of watching the first episode of Sherlock, the new BBC series from Steven Moffat (Coupling, Jekyll, Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss. What's so special about this series, compared to all the other Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows? It's set in the modern era, complete with CSI units, computers, and cell phones.
This preview clip gives you a flavor of the show. The first 90 minute episode, A Study in Pink, is a clever updating of the first Sherlock Holmes story (A Study in Scarlet). There's a rash of suicides happening all over London, but Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) can't put the pieces together. During a press conference, Holmes embarrasses him with a series of text messages, which is cleverly shown as text floating in the air. The production values for the series are top notch, with smart visual effects showing not only technology but Holmes' powers of mental deduction.
A Study in Pink is more than an updating of the Scarlet tale. It's the story of how Dr. John Watson (a medical doctor who served in Afghanistan) meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time and becomes his friend. Martin Freeman's performance as Watson is endearing. Benedict Cumberbatch, who I've never seen before, plays Sherlock Holmes with maniacal energy, yet he keeps a bit of charm and humor in there as well. The gold standard in Holmes actors for me was Jeremy Brett, and while that performance is sacred in my mind, I think Cumberbatch's work is on that level.
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who plays another character in the series, which I won't spoil) talk about the genesis of Sherlock in this clip. The first episode had a lot of humor in addition to action and suspense. In one scene, the police tear apart Holmes' flat looking for drugs; Watson protests "You won't find any drugs here in this house!" Sherlock shushes him, for as all fans know, he has certain addictions.
There are 2 more episodes coming in this first series, which should air later in the United States on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery. Hopefully we will have more episodes next year. Nuff Said!
Originally posted on July 29, 2010.
Update: I still think the first episode of Sherlock, A Study In Pink, is a winner and well worth your time.
The second episode, The Blind Banker, was the worst one for me. The whole Chinese smuggling ring idea seemed too dated to me. If you want some kind of Asian angle, why not have Sherlock go up against Chinese computer hackers?
The third episode, The Great Game, introduces Moriarty to the modern Sherlock. I saw who Moriarty was right away, so the revelation was anti-climatic. However, the actor chosen to play him has great acting chops (you may recognize Andrew Scott from the last episode of Foyle's War) and plays Moriarty with a wild interpretation. One person remarked that this Moriarty has a lot in common with Heath Ledger's Joker. It's a daring choice--I think this show has to make those types of decisions to break from the past. The very last scene will either have you say "this sucks" or "this is brilliant"!